Before a crowd of more than 600 people, Gloria J. Gibson declared an unwavering commitment to the future of Northeastern Illinois University during an Inauguration Ceremony that took place on the University Commons on Sept. 13.
Gibson took office as the seventh president of Northeastern on June 1. The Inauguration Ceremony was the focal point of an Inauguration Week filled with activities that included a Daniel L. Goodwin Distinguished Lecture Series appearance by Olympic track and field champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee and ends Sept. 15 with an Inaugural Ball.
“I pledge to you to do everything that I can to create impactful pathways to the brightest future possible for Northeastern and for our students,” Gibson told the crowd of students, faculty, staff, visiting dignitaries, family and community members on a cloudless afternoon. “We all recognize that Northeastern embodies our hope for the future.”
The ceremony included a number of special guests, including Presidents Emeriti Sharon Hahs and Salme Steinberg, who presented Gibson with the presidential medallion. Acting Provost Wamucii Njogu presented Gibson with the ceremonial orb.
Other dignitaries who were not able to attend sent their congratulations.
“As you begin your tenure as NEIU’s president, I know that you will continue the institution’s drive for excellence and innovation,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a letter read by Alderman Margaret Laurino, a Northeastern alumna. “So as you enjoy this momentous occasion with friends, co-workers and family, I hope you will take the time to reflect on the accomplishments of yesterday and today—and all those yet to come.”
Trustee George Vukotich read a letter from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“Your tenure as president at Northeastern Illinois University will undoubtedly only help to increase and expand the quality of education students receive,” Rauner’s letter said. “The experience you have gained in higher education, leadership development, communications and multicultural affairs make you uniquely qualified to tackle the challenges facing higher education today.”
Vukotich also read a letter of congratulations from U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and a state Senate proclamation sent by Senate President John Cullerton.
During her address to the crowd, Gibson focused on five goals that are consistent with the University’s strategic plan:
- Continuing to attract and recruit from Chicago’s neighborhoods as well as the region, nation and world.
- Focusing on providing services and support to ensure students’ success through graduation.
- Celebrating the successes of faculty and staff.
- Expanding important community, governmental, philanthropic and corporate partnerships.
- Facilitating unity within the University community.
“Life and our world will become far more complex, and it will be increasingly important that we have people who are educated, informed and engaged enough to tackle current and future challenges,” Gibson said. “This is how Northeastern can create pathways to the future—by preparing a diverse community of students for leadership and service in our region and in a dynamic, ever-changing world.”
Echoing the theme of her inauguration, Pathways to the Future, Gibson described her own pathway to the presidency at Northeastern.
A native of East St. Louis, Ill., Gibson became the first college graduate in her family when she earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE). (Her mother later earned a bachelor’s degree at age 78.)
The daughter of transplants from the South, Gibson grew up with a deep spiritual foundation fostered by her parents, James and Grace Allen Gibson.
“We were financially challenged in our family back then,” Gibson said. “You know what means—we were poor. But rich in so many ways.”
She acknowledged her two sons in the audience, Antonio and Kristopher.
“As a single mom, we experienced difficult days while I was in graduate school,” said Gibson, who earned a master’s degree from (SIUE) and a Ph.D. from Indiana University at Bloomington. “We were also financially challenged. You know what that means—we were poor. But they kept me focused and motivated.”
Board of Trustees Chair Wes Becton, who presided over the ceremony, called an inauguration a “defining moment in the history of a university.”
“I was fortunate to have participated in the search committee that selected Dr. Gloria Gibson for this presidency,” he said. “All members of the Board of Trustees agree that she is the right and best person to lead our institution forward.”
Gibson is eager to take on the challenge.
“In many ways, I feel like my entire life has been spent in preparation for this wonderful opportunity,” she said. “It is a dream come true. It is truly a blessing.”
Also during the Inauguration Ceremony
- The processional and recessional were performed by the University Wind Ensemble and conducted by Associate Professor of Music Travis Heath. The national anthem was performed by Zoë Blu Spurgeon. Musical selections also were performed by gospel music group Mark Hubbard and the Voices.
- Northeastern alumna Ana Castillo recited her poem titled “These Times.”
- Student Government Association President Ashlei Ross and Vice President Eric Winslow read the University’s values statements.